INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 28, 2015) – If Chuck Pagano’s successful-but-flawed career with the Indianapolis Colts is winding down, it’s clear he’s at peace with what’s to come.
“I told you a long time ago, I’m going to be fine,’’ he said Monday. “I’ve got it covered.’’
Pagano’s tenure with the Colts has been an issue since he turned down a one-year extension from owner Jim Irsay in the offseason that included a modest raise.
He’s in the final year of a four-year deal, and it’s anyone’s guess whether Irsay plans on bringing Pagano back for a second tour.
Pagano was asked if he regrets not accepting the extension.
“Nope, he relied.
Have he and Irsay had further discussions?
“Nope,’’ he said.
Has he taken time to consider this might be his last week as the Colts’ head coach?
“Never,’’ he said. “I’m worried about the health of our football team, coming off a great win, preparation for the next one. That’s all you can do.’’
The Pagano era has been a mixed bag, which undoubtedly contributed to Irsay’s tepid offer during the offseason.
He’s directed the Colts to a 40-23 regular-season record, although interim coach Bruce Arians accounted for a 9-3 mark in 2012 when Pagano was battling leukemia. The Pagano-led Colts have earned three playoff berths, a 3-3 postseason record and a pair of AFC South titles. The team advanced a step further into the playoffs each season, capped by a trip to the AFC title game in January.
The 43 overall victories, by the way, rank fourth in club history behind Tony Dungy (92-33), Don Shula (73-26-4) and Weeb Ewbank (61-52-1).
Even though the Colts are 7-8 and on the brink of playoff elimination, Pagano and his coaching staff have kept the team from unraveling while dealing with a quarterback carousel and key injuries at other positions.
Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck has missed eight games with shoulder and kidney injuries, and 40-year-old backup Matt Hasselbeck has dealt with food poisoning as well as shoulder, back, neck, rib and jaw injuries. Hasselbeck is doubtful for Sunday’s regular-season finale against Tennessee after suffering a grade-1 sprain to his right AC (shoulder) joint in Sunday’s win at Miami.
Further complicating matters at the position, Charlie Whitehurst was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list Monday with a hamstring injury suffered when Whitehurst replaced Hasselbeck in the second half against the Dolphins.
Working against Pagano are too many lopsided losses, particularly against the New England Patriots, and the team’s inability to establish two foundational tenets when he and general manager Ryan Grigson arrived in 2012: running the football and stopping the run. Irsay also isn’t pleased with the team getting fat on AFC South competition (19-4) while treading water outside the division (24-22, including the playoffs).
“Been a lot of tests,’’ Pagano said. “There’s been obstacles. There’s been adversity. That’s just how it is whether you’re coaching football or in life itself.
“You’re going to have to deal with stuff.’’
Now, with Pagano’s run perhaps nearing an end, his team faces colossal odds at extending its season. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the odds against the Colts making the playoffs are 3,300-to-1.
“I had some pretty crazy odds a couple of years back,’’ said Pagano, who remains in remission after his bout with leukemia. “Never thought once about it.
“Keep believing brother.’’